3 jailers watch as officer wrapped chain around detainee’s neck and briefly choked him

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A surveillance video showing a jailer wrapping a chain around the neck of an inmate whose attorneys say was briefly choked is part of a civil rights lawsuit filed against three correctional officers this week in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia.

Attorneys for plaintiff Tremar Harris provided CNN with the video from January 2022, which they say they obtained during their investigation.

Harris, a 37-year-old Black man, was a pre-trial detainee in solitary confinement at the Appling County jail two years ago, according to court documents.

The suit alleges Officer William Rentz – who is the defendant in a separate suit – placed “the chain of an unused leg restraint” across Harris’ throat when the inmate was restrained in a chair. Then, Rentz “pulled the chain” against Harris’ throat and “strangled” him for a few seconds before letting go of the chain, according to the lawsuit.

Video of the incident shows the chain around Harris’ neck for about 4 seconds.

Officers Daydan Brannon, Cannon Mcleod and Ansley Fennell failed to intervene or stop Rentz “from engaging in such an awful, unlawful, hateful, and sadistic act,” the lawsuit stated, saying the defendants “had the ability, opportunity, skill and time to prevent and immediately stop Officer Rentz from strangling the Plaintiff” but did nothing on Harris’ behalf.

The lawsuit further contends the observing officers “failed to document the unlawful use of force, report the unlawful use of force, nor did they document or report the statements that Officer Rentz made to the Plaintiff.”

The lawsuit says Harris was deprived of his rights under the Constitution and Georgia’s state laws by the officers. Harris is seeking a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages.

CNN was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Brannon, Mcleod and Fennell or their representatives. The Appling County Sheriff has not yet responded to CNN’s question about the employment status of the officers involved or given CNN a statement on the incident.

Rentz, who was terminated, is not named in this lawsuit. Harris and his attorneys filed a lawsuit against Rentz in January.

It alleges Rentz and three other officers entered Harris’ cell and shocked him several times with a so-called “shock shield,” which the lawsuit describes as “an electrified shield design(ed) to deliver an electric shock to those who come into contact (with) it.”

Harris was left in the cell for several hours, according to the lawsuit, before Rentz returned, removed leg shackles from Harris’ ankles, wrapped them around his neck and choked him.

According to the filing, Rentz told Harris he was “gonna put you back in the cotton field with the other boys” while he was “strangling” him.

Harris was emotionally traumatized by the incident and “believed he might die” according to the lawsuit. The filing also says Harris received physical injuries because of the shock shield.

Rentz was charged in March 2023 with violation of oath of office and battery.

The criminal case is pending in Appling County court. Rentz’s criminal attorney, Hugh McCullough, told CNN his client has pleaded not guilty to the charges and said Rentz denies any wrongdoing.

Rentz’s civil attorney, Patrick O’Connor, denied the lawsuit allegations, saying in an email, “Mr. Rentz did not choke Mr. Harris and Mr. Rentz never made the offensive comments falsely attributed to him.”

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